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'I concentrate on that blade of grass; I become one with it': Excerpts from Ruskin Bond's book Hold on to Your Dreams

In Ruskin Bond's book Hold on to Your Dreams, being released today to mark the author's 90th birthday, he shares his thoughts about writing and loneliness

Ruskin Bond | Published 19.05.24, 11:03 AM
Ruskin Bond

Ruskin Bond

Hold on to Your Dreams, according to Penguin, the publisher of the book, 'is a priceless collection of learnings, poignant life lessons and treasured memories curated from a lifetime of experiences — a book that can be a wonderful companion, bedside reader and, at times, also a great teacher'. Written in the form of a letter, it offers hope, wisdom, courage and strength. The writer reflects upon love, loss, friendship, frailties, solitude and companionship and urges us to learn from mistakes, embrace empathy and hold on to our dreams through life’s vicissitudes. An excerpt.


Do I never tire of writing, you ask.

The written word has enabled me to conquer both time and distance. With its help, I can recall scenes from my boyhood, my friends and familiars, lost loves, moments of joy, anguish, triumphs and tragedies — the world around me! Everything from the bluebird on the wing to the deer at the mountain stream.

When I recollect the books I read, I remember how their words, their prosody, took me to faraway places, remote times and distant days — the London of Dickens, the Russia of Dostoyevsky, the France of Balzac and Baudelaire, the America of Mark Twain and O. Henry, the Japan of Lady Murasaki, the China of Lao-Tzu, the India of Kalidas and Tagore, the Persia of Nafiz and Firdausi, the Greece of Homer, the Spain of Cervantes, the Scotland of Burns and the Ireland of Yeats.

I can speak to you better through these words than by telephone or photographs, for our thoughts are invisible and can only be captured by the magic of the written word.

Sometimes, when ideas dry up, words don’t flow and the surroundings —familiar or otherwise — fail to inspire. At such times, it’s best to stop writing for a while, just for a few days. Instead, go for long walks — in the town or the outskirts — until you tire of walking. Once you have done that, you will be happy to return to your desk or easy chair and take up your pen again.

I used to do that when I was younger — walk everywhere. But now, on the verge of ninety, I find it difficult to walk more than a few paces up the road, and I need someone with me to make sure I don’t walk into a ditch. So, instead of walking, I turn to a book or watch an old movie (my childhood escape, as you would remember) or look out of the window at the cloud formations and the changing light on the mountains.

Do I tire of writing?

No. These words are my lifeblood. They have made it possible for me to live the life I wanted to live. And here I am, in my dotage, still stringing them together.

Besides, there are compensations. Like Emerson, I am a great believer in the law of compensation. All those years of hard work have made life a little easier for me now. And if, in the process, my eyesight has been affected, well, it means I no longer fall in love at first sight, with all the complications that ensue!

Make no mistake, though: writing is a solitary art, a lonely profession, whichever way you look at it. You are on your own, even if you are member of a large family or a schoolteacher amidst hundreds of noisy children (or you might be one of those children wanting to write!) or an inmate of a crowded jail. You are alone in a crowd, and you need that loneliness because you have to communicate with yourself and explore the inner sanctum of your mind.

Hold On To Your Dreams — A Letter to Young Friends Author: Ruskin Bond Publisher: Penguin India Pages: 112 Price: ₹399

Hold On To Your Dreams — A Letter to Young Friends Author: Ruskin Bond Publisher: Penguin India Pages: 112 Price: ₹399

Loneliness becomes part of a writer’s being. O. Henry spent two years in prison on a charge of forgery. He met all sorts of people, from small crooks to big-time financiers, and when he’d completed his sentence, did O. Henry seek the bright lights and the party scene? No, he rented a small room in a ramshackle part of New York, and there he churned out two or three stories a week for the dailies — stories that brought him a few dollars, just sufficient for his needs; stories that we still read today, over a hundred years since they were written. These were stories about good people, old people, all sorts of people (for he had seen them all) and all written out of loneliness, the loneliness of a writer who had been part of the crowd and yet not a part of it. He had been on the inside, looking out, whereas now he was on the inside, looking in.

Loneliness doesn’t always lead to great writing or, sometimes, any kind of writing. The absence of human company, someone to hold your hand, can result in depression and an escape from reality into alcohol or drugs. Humans, like monkeys, are gregarious by nature and are inclined to go off their heads if left alone for too long. Cats, like Mimi, are not gregarious. They are quite happy to be left alone. If Mimi can have possession of my easy chair, she will spread herself in it for half the day, only rousing for a sardine or a sausage. But unlike Garfield, the cartoon cat, Mimi is a fussy eater and will turn up her nose at pastries and pizzas.

I love solitude. Not so much because it helps me to write, but because it enables me to look at the world around me in a more intimate way — following the flight of an eagle, the changing patterns of the clouds, the cows grazing on the hillside and the girl calling to them to come home, the grass springing up on the steps — each blade of grass important in itself, each blade of grass representing the entirety of nature, for if grass cannot grow on this earth, nothing else can.

I concentrate on that blade of grass; I become one with it. I must try writing like grass— springing up in different places, renewing itself, becoming more grass, green and growing. The rose fades, the poppy dies, but the grass lives on. The flowers in our garden perish, but the grass survives.

It is good to be alone sometimes, but don’t go searching for solitude, lest it turn into loneliness.

Last updated on 19.05.24, 11:04 AM

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